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Demystifying healthcare the staffing shortage

When it comes to staffing your hospital it important that you have a plan in place. You want to make sure that you have enough nurses in place to deal with things like seasonal fluctuations, the opening of new units or wings, unexpected and expected staff vacancies and illnesses just to name a few. That part you already know, the hard part is how you develop that plan.

For starters it needs to be a plan that takes of long-term and short-term staffing shortages. Like anything in life it is easier to plan for something if you know what to expect, which is why being able to look at some historical factors to predict just what your staffing needs are going to be is an important first step of creating a plan to make sure your unit always has a safe level of nurses for the number of patients you are going to have. Some factors to include in this are:

  • Your hospitals past census levels
  • Your staffing budget
  • Your accepted nurse to patient ratios

Conversely one thing you want to avoid is being overstaffed because it can be very costly to a hospital on a tight budget. Ultimately you want a plan that at least helps your unit break even, but even better you want it to help your hospital make money.

So when you look at staffing your hospital or unit, temporary staffing can be a good part of your staffing plan. You will often hear from the C-Level when money gets tight that temporary staff is one of the most costly budget items and easiest to get rid of, but if the use of travel nurses is part of a plan, not a quick reaction to unexpected census changes then they should not be seen as an expense, but as a revenue generator.  A few factors to keep in mind when looking at the cost of temporary nurse staff as part of your staffing plan are:

  • How many patients are you not seeing because your nurse numbers are too low?
  • What is your average revenue per patient?
  • What percent of your FTEs are being covered by internal float pools and how long will that last?
  • What are average nurse turnover rates?
  • How much are your recruiting cost for a full-time staff?
  • What is your annual salary for a full-time nurse?

When you put together your staffing plan don’t just look at the immediate weigh what your nurse needs will be through the course of the year and determine the times when you will need both full-time staff and temporary (travel or per diem) staff. Not only will you be able to ease the burden on your full-time staff, plan for the temporary staff’s orientation better, help your hospital make more money and most importantly, treat more patients.